Panama tourist information
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama (Spanish: RepÃºblica de PanamÃ¡ [reËˆpuÎ²lika Ã°e panaËˆma]), is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital is Panama City. Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela â€“ named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama and Nueva Granada stayed joined. Nueva Granada later became the Republic of Colombia.
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With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the century.
Revenue from Canal tolls represent today a significant portion of Panama's GDP. Panama has the third or fourth largest economy in Central America and it is also the fastest growing economy and the largest per capita consumer in Central America. In 2010 Panama ranked 4th among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and 54th in the world in 2010. As of 2010, Panama is the second most competitive economy in Latin America as well according to the Global Competitiveness Index from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin and its jungle is home to an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds â€“ some of them to be found nowhere else in the world.
Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. It mostly lies between latitudes 7Â° and 10Â°N, and longitudes 77Â° and 83Â°W (a small area lies west of 83Â°). Some people consider the territory east of the Panama Canal as part of South America, although this is rare. Its location on the Isthmus of Panama is strategic. By 2000, Panama controlled the Panama Canal which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea to the North of the Pacific Ocean. Panama, at 75,515 km2, is ranked 118th worldwide on the basis of land size. For comparison, Panama is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina or slightly larger than the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
The dominant feature of the country's landform is the central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. The divide does not form part of the great mountain chains of North America, and only near the Colombian border are there highlands related to the Andean system of South America. The spine that forms the divide is the highly eroded arch of an uplift from the sea bottom, in which peaks were formed by volcanic intrusions.
The mountain range of the divide is called the Cordillera de Talamanca near the Costa Rican border. Farther east it becomes the SerranÃa de TabasarÃ¡, and the portion of it closer to the lower saddle of the isthmus, where the canal is located, is often called the Sierra de Veraguas. As a whole, the range between Costa Rica and the canal is generally referred to by geographers as the Cordillera Central.
The highest point in the country is the VolcÃ¡n BarÃº (formerly known as the VolcÃ¡n de ChiriquÃ), which rises to 3,475 metres (11,401 ft). A nearly impenetrable jungle forms the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia where Colombian guerrilla and drug dealers are operating with hostage-taking. This and forest protection movements create a break in the Pan-American Highway, which otherwise forms a complete road from Alaska to Patagonia.
Panama's wildlife holds the most diversity of all the countries in Central America. It is home to many South American species as well as North American wildlife.
Waterways and harbors
Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama's rugged landscape. Mostly unnavigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. However, the RÃo Chagres (Rio Chagres) is one of the few wide rivers and a source of enormous hydroelectric power. The river is located in central Panama. The central part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal. The lake was created between 1907 and 1913 by the building of the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River. At the time it was created, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world, and the dam was the largest earth dam. It drains northwest into the Caribbean. The Kampia and Madden Lakes (also filled with water from the RÃo Chagres) provide hydroelectricity for the area of the former Canal Zone.
The RÃo Chepo, another source of hydroelectric power, is one of the more than 300 rivers emptying into the Pacific. These Pacific-oriented rivers are longer and slower running than those of the Caribbean side. Their basins are also more extensive. One of the longest is the RÃo Tuira which flows into the Golfo de San Miguel and is the nation's only river navigable by larger vessels.
The Caribbean coastline is marked by several good natural harbors. However, CristÃ³bal, at the Caribbean terminus of the canal, had the only important port facilities in the late 1980s. The numerous islands of the ArchipiÃ©lago de Bocas del Toro, near the Beaches of Costa Rica, provide an extensive natural roadstead and shield the banana port of Almirante. The over 350 San Blas Islands, near Colombia, are strung out for more than 160 km along the sheltered Caribbean coastline.
Currently, the terminal ports located at each end of the Panama Canal, namely the Port of Cristobal and the Port of Balboa, are ranked second and third respectively in Latin America in terms of numbers of containers units (TEU) handled. The Port of Balboa covers 182 hectares and contains four berths for containers and two multi-purpose berths. In total, the berths are over 2.4 thousand meters long with alongside depth of 15 meters. The Port of Balboa has 18 super post-Panamax and Panamax quay cranes and 44 gantry cranes. The Port of Balboa also contains 2.1 thousand square meters of warehouse space.
The Ports of Cristobal (encompassing the container terminals of Panama Ports Cristobal, Manzanillo International Terminal and Colon Container Terminal) handled 2,210,720 TEU in 2009, second only to the Port of Santos, Brazil, in Latin America.
Excellent deep water ports capable of accommodating large VLCC (Very Large Crude Oil Carriers) are located at Charco Azul, Chiriqui (Pacific) and Chiriqui Grande, Bocas del Toro (Atlantic) near Panama's western border with Costa Rica. The Trans-Panama Pipeline, running across the isthmus with a length of 131 km, has been operating between Charco Azul and Chiriqui Grande since 1979.
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly highâ€”as is the relative humidityâ€”and there is little seasonal variation. Diurnal ranges are low; on a typical dry-season day in the capital city, the early morning minimum may be 24 Â°C (75.2 Â°F) and the afternoon maximum 30 Â°C (86.0 Â°F). The temperature seldom exceeds 32 Â°C (89.6 Â°F) for more than a short time. Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean, and breezes tend to rise after dusk in most parts of the country. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.
Climatic regions are determined less on the basis of temperature than on rainfall, which varies regionally from less than 1,300 millimeters (51.2 in) to more than 3,000 millimeters (118.1 in) per year. Almost all of the rain falls during the rainy season, which is usually from April to December, but varies in length from seven to nine months. In general, rainfall is much heavier on the Caribbean than on the Pacific side of the continental divide. The annual average in Panama City is little more than half of that in ColÃ³n. Although rainy-season thunderstorms are common, the country is outside of the hurricane belt.
Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Although nearly 40% of Panama is still wooded, deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Tree cover has been reduced by more than 50% since the 1940s. Subsistence farming, widely practiced from the northeastern jungles to the southwestern grasslands, consists largely of corn, bean, and tuber plots. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of the country and extends to the lower reaches of slopes in the other.
The culture of Panama derived from European music, art and traditions that were brought over by the Spanish to Panama. Hegemonic forces have created hybrid forms of this by blending African and Native American culture with European culture. For example, the tamborito is a Spanish dance that was blended with Native American rhythms, themes and dance moves. Dance is a symbol of the diverse cultures that have coupled in Panama. The local folklore can be experienced through a multitude of festivals, dances and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. Local cities host live Reggae en EspaÃ±ol, Cuban, Reggaeton, Kompa, Colombian, jazz, blues, salsa, reggae, passa passa, jerk and rock performances.
Outside of Panama City, regional festivals take place throughout the year featuring local musicians and dancers. Another example of Panama's blended culture is reflected in the traditional products, such as woodcarvings, ceremonial masks and pottery, as well as in its architecture, cuisine and festivals. In earlier times, baskets were woven for utilitarian uses, but now many villages rely almost exclusively on the baskets they produce for tourists.
An example of undisturbed, unique culture in Panama stems from the Kuna Indians who are known for molas. Mola is the Kuna Indian word for blouse, but the term mola has come to mean the elaborate embroidered panels that make up the front and back of a Kuna woman's blouse. Molas are works of art created by the women of the Central American Cuna (or Kuna) tribe. They are several layers of cloth varying in color that are loosely stitched together made using an appliquÃ© process referred to as "reverse appliquÃ©".
The Christmas parade, known as El desfile de Navidad, is celebrated in the capital Panama City. This holiday is celebrated on December 25. The floats of the people in the parade are decorated with the Panamanians colors and the women dress in dresses called the Pollera the men dress in the traditional Montuno. In addition, the marching band in the parade which consists of drummers keeps the crowds entertained. In the city, a big Christmas tree is lit with Christmas lights, and everybody surrounds the tree and sings Christmas carols.
The traditional Panamanian dish for Christmas usually includes chicken tamales, arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), puerca asada, pernil, pavo (turkey) and relleno (stuffing). Bowls of fruits and fruitcake are set out on the tables along with the dishes. Along with these foods and dessert, a traditional drink is served which is called Ron Ponche (eggnog). Which consists of: two cans of condensed milk, three cans of evaporated milk, six eggs and half a bottle of rum and nutmeg for some extra flavor.
A Panamanian women's traditional clothing is called the Pollera. The Pollera originated in Spain in the 16th century. Later on the Pollera was used as a typical dress in Panama in the early eighteen hundreds. The Pollera was worn by women servants or maids: "it was especially the dress of the wet nurses who nursed the children of the family" (De Zarate 5). As years went on, the upper class women adopted the dress.
The original Pollera consists of a female wearing a ruffled blouse that is off her shoulders. The skirt is on the waistline with gold buttons. The skirt also has ruffle so when she lifts it up, it looks like a peacock's tail or a mantilla fan. The designs on the skirt and blouse are usually flowers, or birds. A two large matching mota(pom-pom) is on the front and back, four ribbons are hanging from the back and the front on the waist line, caberstrillos (five chains of gold) are hanging from the neck to the waist, a gold cross or medallion that's on a black ribbon is worn as a choker and a silk purse is worn the female waistline. Zaricillos (earrings) are usually gold or coral and to complete the outfit the female wears slippers which matche the color of her Pollera. Her hair is usually worn in a bun held with three large gold combs which have some pearls and is worn like a crown. The best pollera can usually cost up to ten thousand dollars and may take a year to complete. The men also wear traditional clothing. Their outfits consist of white cotton shirts, trousers and woven straw hat. This traditional clothing can be worn in parades, where the females and males do a traditional dance. The females do a gentle sway and twirl their skirts while the men hold their hats in their hands and dance behind the females.
A pollera is made with a "cambric" or "fine linen" (Baker 177). The color of the Pollera is always white and it is usually about thirteen yards of material. Today, there are different types of polleras; The Pollera de Gala consists of a short sleeved ruffle skirt blouse, two full length skirts and a petticoat. The girls wear tembleques a gold and tortoise shell combs with pearls in it in their hair. Gold coins and jewelry are added on the outfit. The Pollera Montuna is a daily dress, with a blouse, a skirt with a solid color, a single gold chain and a pendant earrings. The hair piece is a natural flower in the hair. This Pollera is slightly different from the rest because instead of off the shoulder blouse, the females wear a fitted white jacket, shoulder pleats and a flared hem.